Wednesday, 08 April 2020

Telefonica rallies a posse of Open RAN vendors to take on 5G

by Harry Baldock, Total Telecom
Wednesday 18 March 20

The operator has announced a host of new partnerships to trial Open RAN solutions this year

Telefonica is today making waves in the Open RAN community after announcing a host of new partnerships in order to test 4G and 5G Open RAN capabilities throughout its global footprint.    The operator’s new collaborators are Altiostar, Gigatera Communications, Intel, Supermicro, and Xilinx, with the group reportedly planning trials in Brazil, Germany, Spain…

Telefonica is today making waves in the Open RAN community after announcing a host of new partnerships in order to test 4G and 5G Open RAN capabilities throughout its global footprint. 
 
The operator’s new collaborators are Altiostar, Gigatera Communications, Intel, Supermicro, and Xilinx, with the group reportedly planning trials in Brazil, Germany, Spain, and the UK later this year. 
 
The partnership will focus around developing Distributed Units, Remote Radio Units, and software to manage the Open RAN network.
 
The idea of Open RAN is very appealing to operators. The concept is based on a simplified, neutral hardware RAN system, with heavy emphasis on software-defined technology. This will give operators a much broader range of potential suppliers, reduce deployment costs, and give their networks increased flexibility due to rapid, targetted software updates. Telefonica also argues that the virtualised nature of Open RAN infrastructure could better facilitate the needs of mobile edge computing in a 5G network. 
 
“Edge-computing applications running in the Telco cloud can benefit from the strong capillarity of the access network, hence tailoring the service behaviour to the instantaneous user conditions as well as the status of the live network,” said Telefonica’s press release.
 
However, until now, Open RAN has been considered mostly in the context of 4G, with major vendors like Ericsson, Huawei, and Nokia deemed simply too far ahead when it comes to 5G tech. Indeed, this 5G dominance is at the heart of the giant vendors’ current dismissal of any threat posed by Open RAN – they believe it is just cannot compare to their own inventory.
 
Telefonica’s new partnerships aim to shrink that 5G lead and it is not alone in tackling this formidible task; many operators are increasingly exploring Open RAN’s potential. Facebook’s Internet para Todos initiative (in which Telefonica itself is also involve) is working with Parallel Wireless to deploy 4G Open RAN throughout Peru. Vodafone began Open RAN trials in Africa and the UK last year, with O2 following suit at the start of this year. Deutsche Telekom is dabbling as well, vaunting a major breakthrough at the end of last month that could make Open RAN much more competitive. 
 
Perhaps the highest profile case of Open RAN will be Rakuten Mobile’s 4G network launch next month, with the company boasting the world’s first fully virtualised, cloud native, Open RAN.
 
With more and more operators drilling down to find Open RAN’s true potential, the major vendors could have trouble on their hands in coming years.   
 
 
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